23 March 2016

Goodwood 74th Members’ Meeting: A Close Run Thing

I love Goodwood. The feel of the place is great- if Silverstone is Lewis Hamilton’s Arai helmet with full HANS harness, then Goodwood is Stirling Moss’s Everoak. One is functional, efficient and maybe a little soulless, the other charismatic, stylish but possibly risky.

This weekend, at the otherwise superb 74th Members’ Meeting, that risky character of Goodwood, and historic motor racing in general, was firmly brought home to those watching, with a series of very serious crashes. Fortunately, nobody was killed, but this week there will undoubtedly be some serious discussions taking place at Goodwood House.

The first crash took place at just after 9am in the Brooks Trophy. Stephen Bond, in his 1961 Lotus Climax 18, had just exited the chicane and entered the pit straight when his car and the Cooper T51 of Richard Wilson collided. The crash caused Bond’s Lotus to cartwheel, leaving the circuit and coming to rest inside the GRRC foot tunnel. A wheel from the car became dislodged and fell into the disabled viewing area. The tunnel, usually full of people, and the disabled area were both empty; nobody was hurt except Bond who was reported to have suffered a broken collar bone. The crash was captured on video here.

Later, in the Bruce McLaren Can Am race a Lola-Chevrolet T70 Spyder driven by Michiel Smits went straight on at Woodcote and hit the tyre barrier extremely hard. Smits was again supremely lucky- his son reported on Pistonheads here that he had suffered just a broken rib and two vertebrae.

Racing was delayed as the tyre wall was rebuilt, but the fun was not over. In the Graham Hill Trophy race, car number 63, a 1963 Cobra driven by Karsten Le Blanc, lost control under breaking at the end of the Lavant Straight. Leaving the tarmac, the car skidded over the grass and made another big impact with the tyre wall. Again, the driver avoided serious injury, and again it was captured on video.

So what, if anything, is there to deduce from three serious crashes in the space of a few hours’ racing? The weather was good, so you can’t blame that. The cars- with the exception of the Lola- could have been racing at the Revival, so that’s also out as a common factor. We’re left with the track and the drivers.

But Goodwood has always been a hairy circuit- it is very quick and if you get it wrong there isn’t much space to sort things out before you hit something hard. And despite some commentators blaming over-enthusiastic gentleman drivers, the fact is that a huge amount of racing takes place safely at Goodwood- the Saturday of this year’s Members’ Meeting is a case in point.

No, what happened at Goodwood last weekend was that old motorsport combination: bad and good luck, both arriving at the same time. Bad, because three bad shunts happened on the same day, and good because nobody was badly hurt.

Now the challenge that face Lord March and his team is to learn from those accidents and try to make things safer without affecting the ‘Everoak’ character of the place. The crash that will concern them most is the first- the Lotus leaving the circuit. Because, while every driver knows the risks, the spectators who attend what are billed as family events may be less aware.

Whatever changes the team at Goodwood decide to implement, we wish them the best of luck- in only its third year, the Members’ Meeting has already established itself as one of the best historic race meetings in the calendar. Long may it safely continue.

What do you think? Should the circuit change, or maybe the constraints on drivers? Or is motorsport inherently risky? We value your opinion.

16 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Trevor Gaunt United Kingdom March 24, 2016 at 16:42
    Mr Mayhead should take a closer look at the video of Stephen Bond's crash. There were spectators in the disabled viewing area, one of them in a wheelchair.
  • 2
    klb London March 24, 2016 at 18:04
    Dear John, Your article raises many valid points. I was drawn to it by the sight of the photo of my damaged car, which I feel was somewhat voyeuristic to post and I would prefer to see replaced by the car pre-accident (of which plenty if you want one). It feels a little bit like publishing photos of accident victims. Last weekend Lord March and his team have yet again produced an amazing event, with great cars representing many eras of racing, an impressive gathering of drivers, both legends and amateurs, the recreation of a genuine club event feel, and close and exciting racing. There are probably few people who love what Lord March does at Goodwood more than I do. It was very unfortunate, and quite unusual, to have had three accidents on Sunday. I think we should put things into perspective, however. As you wrote, Goodwood is not like Silverstone or any other modern day race track with massive run-off areas that allow you to stay out of trouble when you run out of talent. I think that all drivers realise this, and in a funny way it makes racing that bit more exhilarating and forces drivers to respect the risk of exceeding their limits even more so. However, Michiel Smits' and my accident (as a result of my throttle being stuck fully open when trying to lift at 123 MPH going into Fordwater, not due to loss of control under breaking!) could have happened on any other circuit in the world and the result would probably not be much different (although some gravel between tarmac and tyre wall might have helped slow me down more). The cartwheeling Lotus was an extraordinary accident and we are all very grateful that no member of the public was injured. The car landing in the tunnel must surely be a first after millions of race laps around Goodwood. One would hope that the aftermath of this will not lead to a raft of modern safety measures, as it would be a great shame to lose the period character of the circuit. Finally, all hail the HANS harness, the strength of my poor Cobra and my excellent guardian angel. That trio allowed me to walk away from a high impact crash. Both car and driver will return to Goodwood before too long, Lord March willing!
  • 3
    Matt Damper Chichester March 24, 2016 at 18:08
    Horrendous as the Lotus crash was, it's hard to see how one could guarantee to prevent the possibility of a racing incident occurring of the type which may have happened back in the Sixties when these cars were in their heyday. Our perception of 'safety' has changed- we now tend to assume everything is safe for competitors and observers alike, and indeed a 'modern' race car may not have reacted in this way to a similar type of collision. If '60s cars are raced in earnest around a circuit from the same era occasionally bad accidents will happen. The fact that three serious incidents occurred over the same weekend may cause a disproportionate reaction, though it was in all probability simply bad luck. Thank goodness no-one was in the path of the debris and no life-threatening injury was sustained. The race events at Goodwood are unique and long may they continue!
  • 4
    tim kingham bedford March 24, 2016 at 18:36
    remembering the le Mans crash in the fifties its always when the car takes to the air after a glancing blow at a 'ramp' at le Mans it was the back of a car at the members meeting it was a brown 'something' in front of the crash wall a crashing car should always meet a vertical wall-soft if possible. apart from that we all read the notice "motor racing is dangerous". it is don't change it
  • 5
    Brian Hilton Silsoe March 24, 2016 at 19:20
    Amazing how the Lola Driver survived but looking at the video by the time it fell into the pedestrian underpass it had lost most of it's forward energy due to hit the hedges so that it dropped straight down, must be a one in a million chance of that happening. As someone just said Motorsport is dangerous and accidents happen, the main thing is that the driver survived what was basically a normal racing accident.
  • 6
    Julian Moore Chichester March 25, 2016 at 01:23
    It is such a fabulous event that I fear commentary like this will ensure its downfall. unfortunately wrapping this in cotton wool safety may lead to reduced accessibility for the members and reduced competition by the racers. this would be a catastrophe
  • 7
    Karsten Le Blanc London March 25, 2016 at 15:09
    Dear John, Your article raises many valid points. With last week's 74th Members Meeting Lord March and his team have yet again produced an amazing event, with great cars representing many eras of racing, an impressive gathering of drivers, both legends and amateurs, the recreation of a genuine club event feel, and close and exciting racing. There are probably few people who love what Lord March does at Goodwood more than I do. It was very unfortunate, and quite unusual, to have had three accidents on Sunday. I think we should put things into perspective, however. As you wrote, Goodwood is not like Silverstone or any other modern day race track with massive run-off areas that allow you to stay out of trouble when you run out of talent. I think that all drivers realise this, and in a funny way it makes racing that bit more exhilarating and forces drivers to respect the risk of exceeding their limits even more so. However, Michiel Smits' and my accident (as a result of my throttle being stuck fully open when trying to lift at 123 MPH going into Fordwater, not due to loss of control under breaking!) could have happened on any other circuit in the world and the result would probably not be much different (although some gravel between tarmac and tyre wall might have helped slow me down more). The cartwheeling Lotus was an extraordinary accident and we are all very grateful that no member of the public was injured. The car landing in the tunnel must surely be a first after millions of race laps around Goodwood. One would hope that the aftermath of this will not lead to a raft of modern safety measures, as it would be a great shame to lose the period character of the circuit. Finally, all hail the HANS harness, the strength of my poor old Cobra and my excellent guardian angel. That trio allowed me to walk away from a high impact crash. Both car and driver will return to Goodwood before too long, Lord March willing!
  • 8
    John Procter Chichester March 25, 2016 at 05:08
    I attend all the Goodwood events and am a GRRC member. My favourite event used to be the Revival, which has now become too big, expensive and too much of a dress-up party - but the car racing is still the best anywhere. The resurrected Members' Meeting has now my preferred event - until last Sunday. I was there all day, both days. Saturday was brilliant, both for the racing and the evening entertainment. Sunday was spoiled by a series of accidents, which curtailed the racing and made a mockery of the organisation; for instance, with the Lola crash in the afternoon the official commentators were treating the public (paying lots of money) like idiots with no details of what was happening- either that or they hadn't been informed about the seriousness of the Woodcote crash, which would beg the question about the organiser's motives? The first crash was I think down to bad luck - a racing incident, but the Lola crash demonstrated why the circuit was closed in 1965. Cars such as these are just too fast to race on this track, particularly in the hands of those who are inexperienced in driving those particular cars on that particular circuit.
  • 9
    Colin Borley Peterborough March 25, 2016 at 05:10
    One has to be rather naive to think that an accident is other than driver error in any situation. Misjudgement, anticipation, personal ability, vehicle limitation. As a conservationist of vehicles and life I hate to see cars and drivers smashed up.
  • 10
    huggies midlands March 25, 2016 at 05:26
    It has to change there is a massive accident in waiting It closed because because cars became too fast It has not materially changed and cars are faster still Some rudimentary catch fencing and barriers whilst not in period are essential Smallpox maybe very "period" but I would rather protect against it
  • 11
    Will Grime Dubai March 25, 2016 at 05:35
    The weather was clear but COLD. I wonder how much cold tyres had to do with the Cobra and Lola excursions into the outfield, at least?
  • 12
    Ted Northern Ireland March 25, 2016 at 11:12
    Difficult to assess from a forum comment and two videos and I am sure the MSA will have a big say when perusing the incident reports. But--- double waved yellows only at the Cobra crash? The cars in the zone after the flags were still cornering with verve and a flat truck at the incident appeared to be in line with any second off track occurence. Bianchi? Short memories?!
  • 13
    Charles Challinger Silverstone March 28, 2016 at 13:12
    Like many commentators I approve of Lord March's initiatives and efforts to produce such excellent racing events. I am a GRRC member and have been spectating at and competing in motor sport events since the mid-60s so I've seen a few shunts. The accidents at Goodwood this year were sobering but not unique. I recall Alan McNish getting airborne in an F3000 race (I think) and ending up in the pedestrian tunnel at Donington with a resulting spectator fatality. I also recall at a sprint at Goodwood in the 80s a car exiting the chicane and hitting the bank at about the same point as the single-seater on Sunday and then looping over the spectator fencing into the viewing area without anything more than a bruising to the driver's pride. So similar accidents can have varying effects. Nobody wants Goodwood to become like Silverstone with massive run off areas that remove you from proximity to the action. What is needed is a calm approach to some modern risk assessment which doesn't have to result in draconian 'elf-n-safety' solutions. Example 1: No pedestrians in the tunnel during racing - no more difficult to administer than the track crossings. Example 2: Do away with the concrete gutter on the exit of the chicane - it often causes cars to go into oversteer during a race and that contributed to Sunday's accident. Example 3: Introduce more 'deformable' barriers - I'm sure these contributed to Michael Smits receiving comparatively light injuries thank heavens. Example 4: At key locations raise the spectator fencing to be taller - this will in some cases reduce crowds at these points and be self administering as spectators will likely move to were the fences are lower and the risks less. Long may Goodwood continue - it really does anble current enthusiasts to see racing as it was. I totally respect James Cheyne's comments - he's been there and suffered the downside - but his comments are all about what happens after an incident and the main thinking at the moment needs to be focused on prevention.
  • 14
    James Cheyne Coppet March 28, 2016 at 04:11
    This is a very useful message for all of us. Thank you. I was once involved in an ‘incident’ in practice at a vintage car event at Silverstone. My car was badly damaged and I ended up in hospital with serious concussion after a knock on my head that split my helmet. I have not raced since then partly because there was no inquiry to investigate how the incident occurred so that blame could be apportioned and no penalties imposed either for me or the other driver according to a division of fault. The enquiry at Goodwood will determine if any of the incidents were caused by mechanical failures and I’m sure that, if appropriate, the scrutineers that checked the cars will be appropriately penalised. Based on your description and the videos of the incidents however it looks as if driver error was the origin of one or more of the incidents. If so, the committee of inquiry committee needs to have the authority to recommend an appropriate penalty. This will not be easy even though two of the incidents were captured on video. However the committee should have the power to recommend to the MSA that either or both the drivers lose his or her licence for a period of months or even permanently if the fault was egregious. The alternative of fining a guilty driver will need to be handled with care since there is often wide difference in the wealth between different classic and vintage car racers; a £5,000 fine could bankrupt some drivers while others would barely even blink. I suggest therefor that both practice and the races at vintage and classic racing events should be routinely recorded on video by the organisers and all incidents that required any action by medical staff should be investigated by a group of people that were properly qualified for the job and have the authority to recommend penalties. We all know that motor racing is dangerous but it is not enough to let dangerous drivers to continue to race without properly managed oversight followed by the threat of meaningful penalties.
  • 15
    John Fox East Bridgford, Notts. March 28, 2016 at 17:39
    This was my first Members Meeting and in many respects I loved it. The circuit is great, it's nice to be able to stand reasonably close to the track and watch without debris fencing obstructing my view. I am a keen photographer and at most circuits these days the debris fencing means there is no point in trying to take photos from the trackside, so I don't enjoy it so much and it doesn't take much for me not to bother going. I am talking here about Silverstone, Donington and Brands Hatch in particular. Motor racing is dangerous, always has been, always will be. As a spectator I am happy to accept some risk - but I almost feel that I am not allowed to do that any more, despite having attended race meetings regularly since the 1960s. The obvious change to make at Goodwood is to extend the spectator tunnel so that the area where the Lotus ended up has a roof. The use of safety cars also needs to be looked at. It seems now that if any car crashes, we have to have a safety car and with races limited by time it can mean most of the race being neutralised such as happened in the F.3 race and that's no use to anyone. In the past, the crashed car would be signalled by yellow flags for a couple of laps and then they would be withdrawn and the race allowed to continue normally. That's the way it should be. Race stoppages are preferable to safety cars but should only be used where an injured driver needs to be attended to. Beyond that, I wouldn't change a thing. To do so would ruin the place and it wouldn't be worth the 200 mile journey to go there. If the health and safety lobby (and noise lobby) means that motor racing as I like it has had its day, so be it. I will live happily with half a century of memories, because I am not going to watch something I don't enjoy.
  • 16
    Michiel Smits Eindhoven, the Netherlands April 7, 2016 at 15:41
    Dear All, Being unfortunate and fortunate at the same time does not always coincide. It did at the 74th MM and hence I am able to write to this Forum that I will be back at Lord March's splendidly organised and safe event. My accident could have happend anywhere, to anybody and at any time. I never saw the front cover of the Lola T70 driving in front of me coming at me and striking my head. It crushed my helmet and put me unconcious in a split second after which I lost control over my driving abilities and upon which I drove straight into the barrier. After more than 25 years of racing and seeing many circuits, cars, drivers and guards, I can only say that winning the lottery is a bigger chance than ending up in an accident like this! A big thanks goes to anyone who helped me getting out of my car and bringing me into safety. Untill next time at Goodwood. Kind regards, Michiel Smits

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